Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Runner's World Festival

Niko was so excited for his first race
Why did I do that last year?  I was so stupid.  It literally felt like one of the biggest running mistakes I've ever made.  So this weekend after a year long wait and endless nights thinking of the regret I had,  I did it!  I achieved a goal I had been dreaming of for a whole year.

 I finally snagged a free skirt during the half marathon of the Runner's World Festival weekend!   AND even better so did Emir ;-) 

I know it sounds ridiculous and silly but honestly, I really did regret not getting "skirted" as the girls called it.  You can read about my sad story from last year HERE.  So already you know that my Runner's World weekend 2014 was a smashing success as I got not one but TWO FREE running skirts!  HAHA ok enough of the skirts.

Niko and Una having fun before the race
This year was the 3rd annual Runner's World Half and Festival in Bethlehem, PA and the 3rd year Emir and I were signed up for the Hat Trick (5K, 10K and Half marathon).  We love the challenge of running 3 races in one weekend and have had a great time every year which is why we keep coming back.  It also helps that Bethlehem is only about an hour from where we live.  Technically I suppose we could drive up each morning for the races but we choose to enjoy the weekend as a get away for just the two of us.  Plus aside from the races themselves there are lots of other activities going on so it's nice to be able to stay in Bethlehem all weekend to enjoy whatever we might decide to take part in. 

Niko & Una with my co-workers kids Grace and Emma.  Grace (the taller one) ran the mile and got 4th overall
This year we were especially excited for the Festival because we had signed Niko up for the kids race.  I have mentioned before how Niko is very into our running.  Always asking how our run went, how far we ran, how long we ran and when he can, he will run with us for a mile or so.  Since asking him if he wanted to do the race, he has been BEYOND excited about it, talking nonstop about his race.  Being 5, Niko was signed up for the 1/4 mile.  For older age groups there was a 1/2 mile and 1 mile races.  Conversations the week leading up to the race were pretty comical.  Niko has really only attended ultras and 1 marathon, never anything shorter.  He kept asking about the aid stations and what kind of food and drinks they would have for when he was tired and needed to fuel up.  Our efforts trying to explain how short his race would be were just fruitless but at least it was interesting conversation ;-) 

Una had a ton of fun running

On Friday when we went to the tent to pick up Niko's race bib, we found out that the age group was actually 2-5, not 3-5.  We asked Una if she wanted to run, of course seeing all the other kids with bibs and race shirts, she said "YES please!"  It was super easy to register her on site and she still got a bib and shirt.  The only difference if you registered ahead was the kids' names were on their bibs which totally made Niko's day.  Did I mention how the kids' races were completely free?!  So awesome.  While we waited for the kids' races to start, there was a band that played music for the kids and led them in some yoga poses.  Both Niko and Una loved this.  Niko especially is very into yoga as he does it after recess everyday at school.  Next thing we knew, it was time to start!  Emir ran with Niko and I ran with Una (well run/walked).  She definitely had a blast waving to the crowds cheering for her and taking calls on her Dora phone, hehe.

"Mom I've got an important call on my phone!"
We saw Niko go by the other way on his way back.  He was booking it.  There was no places for the kids but he was definitely in the top 10 finishers. 

Niko was flying!
All the kids got kids' medals and snacks after they finished.  You could tell ALL the kids and their parents had a great time.  My mom and sister had driven up to watch the race and take the kids home with them.  But even if they hadn't, it still would have been worth it to drive them up and then back home, it was that much fun for all of us. 

So great that my mom and sister came to watch the kids run
No sense boring you with details of our dinner, beers at the hotel bar while watching bad karaoke and morning routine when we got up on Saturday ;-)   Emir had booked us to stay at the Comfort Suites University which is right basically on Lehigh University's campus.  They had free breakfast that started at 6:30, perfect!  It also worked out great for us as it was well less than a mile to the steelstacks where the 5K and 10K races start.  We actually had to add some distance on to our warm up run from the hotel to the start.  As I mentioned in last year's post, the starting area for Saturday's races are awesome.  There are a whole bunch of porta pottys however we never even use them since the steelstacks visitor's center has huge indoor bathrooms with tons of pottys.  No lines, no nothing!  We easily checked our bag and pottied and were ready to go.
Happy to be racing together.  Haven't done a race together since May.
This year we smartened up and started closer to the front for the 5K so that we wouldn't get trapped and be able to go the pace we wanted.  We started pretty fast.  We realized immediately that this year's course was different than last year and there was no hill in the first mile.  There were a couple of hills in the second mile but overall I wouldn't say the 5K was overly hilly.  I can't remember when Emir took off ahead of me.  I think during the first hill in the second mile.  I felt just ok during the 5K.  My lungs were burning and I had that weird metallic, blood kind of taste in my mouth.  I knew it was my asthma.  I don't really talk about it much in my blog because I don't really feel like it affects me too much but every once in a while it does rear it's ugly head.  Most of the time it's when I get sick with an upper respiratory infection.   Also occasionally during very strenuous activity but that has gotten way less as I do an inhaler before every run to keep it in check.  I've been very lucky as my body has adapted very well over the last few years to my running.  Asthma was the main reason I didn't run until a few years ago.  I could swim for long periods but never run very long before I started having trouble breathing.   Even when I first started trying to run a few years ago, my lungs would start burning within the first couple of minutes.  It took a while before I could go for entire runs without the burning.  Now it's pretty rare but it does happen occasionally. 
Representing Bibrave at the 5K
Of course feeling this made me upset.  I was thinking how am I going to run another race today and a half marathon tomorrow if I'm having problems!?!  ugh!  Anyway I finished in 23 minutes which despite not feeling great, was a pretty big 5K PR for me, by a good 2 minutes or so.  Emir had finished in 22 minutes which was a PR for him.   We were both pretty happy but pretty pooped.  We walked around, got our bag and used the pottys.  All we could talk about was how we felt more like a nap than another race.  And we could both already feel a little hammy soreness from running hard. 

PR in the 5K!
Before checking our bag back in to do a little warm-up for the 10K, Emir said maybe I should do my inhaler again since I was feeling not so great in the lungs.  Pulling out my inhaler I remembered that it wasn't really spraying the medicine out the way it should which I mentioned to him.  Of course in Emir fashion he went right to work with a little twig he found on the ground, problem solved.  I got two normal puffs.  In a few minutes I could already feel the difference.  Don't ask me why I didn't really think to take care of this prior to the 5K or why I thought it wasn't really that important.  Like I said, in my mind I have very mild asthma and it's not a big deal but things like this remind me that I do have an issue and I need to be mindful of it.

Now onto the 10K!  We started up near the front again, although we had decided we were going to start off a bit slow due to feeling tired/sore from the 5K.  HA! yeah like we ever do that.  Emir stopped at the first potty as he had to pee AGAIN but I just kept going with my co-worker Becky who had started with us in the 10K.  She got 3rd in her age group for the 5K.  We ran together for a while but she said she was going to drop back as she was feeling tired.  The 10K course was different this year as well.  And by different, I mean HARDER!  There were definitely more hills than last year.  I really wanted to beat my 10K PR which was from last year's Runner's World but fighting these hills was making me feel like I didn't have a chance at doing that, especially as Emir went flying past me during mile 3 even though he had stopped!   I couldn't keep up with him but I did give myself a talking to and off I went to finish strong.  My lungs were much better now and even though my legs were a big sore, I was able to get them moving.  I was really happy to cross the finish at 49.03, almost 2.5 minutes faster than last year!  Emir had come in at 47 minutes which was a big PR for him as well.  We were totally kicking ass!! 

Becky and I after the 10K

PRs for both of us in the 10K!
After the two Saturday races, we were exhausted and sore!  We made our way back to our hotel, showered, got some lunch and headed back to the artsquest center.  We browsed the expo as we didn't really get a chance on Friday with the kids.  This is the one area I feel was a bit disappointing this year.  The expo seemed to be lacking compared to last year as far as booths and goodies.  We really didn't spend much time there at all.  Also, this year we did not attend any seminars.  We attended many the first two years however this year there were really no new ones offered.  Most of them were the same topics and even most of the same speakers.  We were also VERY disappointed that there were no running movies offered this year.  The first two years we watched several wonderful running movies while at the festival and really enjoyed the experiences however this year there were none. 

Oh well, despite not really finding anything too interesting at the festival on Saturday, we were kind of glad to go back to the hotel to rest.  We were spent!  We napped a bit and watched a movie.  So while disappointed about the offerings, I do think these extra hours of rest really helped for the half marathon on sunday.  We had a delicious dinner at the Bethlehem Brewery with some good beer and then back to the hotel to bed early.  Runner's world does offer a pasta dinner with the editors on Saturday which we did the first year.  We did have fun and the food wasn't bad but we just felt like going out somewhere since we were kid free and especially somewhere that we could try a few different beers.

Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for the half.  We both felt soreness in our legs and were wondering how well we were going to fare in this race.  The start for the Half is a bit further away than the other two races however it was perfect distance for our warm-up.  It was a bit chilly on Sunday but I didn't think it was too bad except for the huge gusts of wind, brrr!  Even though I wasn't sure how I was going to feel running this race, I couldn't wait to get started so I could feel warm.  I wanted to give it my best shot to beat my PR from a few weeks ago at the Philly Rock and Roll however I knew it would be SUPER hard.  Not only had I run a 12 hour race the week after Rock and Roll and raced very hard just the day before in the 5K and 10K but I knew this Runner's World course would not be flat like Philly, despite Bart Yasso's claim that the course was easier (I knew it would not be true!).  I convinced Emir and my co-worker Becky that we should start with the 1:40 pacer and just see what happens. 

At the start of the half
Becky and I kept up with the pacer for the first couple of miles while Emir held back.  In hindsight I probably should have held back as well but I was determined to try to PR.  As it turns out, Emir was more on pace than the pacer who ran the first two miles in about 7:26 each rather than 7:38.  The third mile was all hills and that's when I just gave up on the pacer.  While I have definitely made vast improvements in my pace on hills, they still slow me down.  And with sore, tired legs I just felt like I couldn't do it.  Miles 3 through about 6.5 or so were tough.  I was getting kind of down as I watched my overall pace get slower and slower and I just felt like I didn't have enough in me to go any faster. So when I reached the Running Skirt aid station, I was like "what's the difference if I stop now to get a skirt?!" not to mention I had already made up my mind immediately after finishing last year that this year, I would stop and get a skirt no matter what. Not to mention if I was going to end up with a bad race, I might as well get a skirt out of it! Check out the Running Skirts video HERE.  I'm at 1:33 ;-)

At this point I was somewhere between 7 & 8 miles and my overall pace was such that I would finish 1:47-1:48 and that's if I didn't go slower. I was excited about getting my skirt and I think the gel I had done about 10 minutes prior was kicking in because next thing I knew I had put up a couple of miles under 8 minutes. That was all I needed to pick it up a notch. Over the last 4-5 miles it wasn't easy but my overall pace kept creeping down. My last two miles were 7:30 and 7:40 and I crossed the finish at 1:45.30. While not an overall half PR, it was almost 4 full minutes faster than last year's Runner's World half and only 1 minute shy of the PR I just ran a month ago on a MUCH flatter course. I was very pleased with my results! I am definitely confident that on a course similar to Philly Rock and Roll I would have beat my PR. And because I love stats I figured out that my overall Hat Trick this year was about 10 minutes faster than last year AND last year I was 68th female for the Hat Trick and this year I was 27th. I would say that's a pretty good improvement!

Happy we did so well in all 3 races and THRILLED to get skirts ;-)
So overall once again we had a great experience at the Runner's World Half and Festival. Everything was well organized as usual. Everyone is super friendly, helpful and treats the runners like first class citizens. Emir and I are also huge Altra fans (Emir is an Altra Ambassador) and they are the main sponsor of the festival. We were able to meet up with Brian and Golden two of the co-founders and another embassador Tiffany. It was really nice to be able to meet them and hang out, they are all SUPER nice.

Altra Ambassadors Emir and Tiffany with Altra co-founders Brian and Golden
Of course, all the races including the kids'races were awesome! We enjoyed the courses being different than the past two years despite that the 10K and Half were NOT easier Bart Yasso! ;-) We like the challenge and that Runner's world keeps mixing it up. All the aid stations were well stocked and staffed. And the swag was good too, tech shirt, hat, a pair of Balega socks for us Hat Trickers and of course a medal for each race completed. I'm so proud of Emir who finally had some GREAT road races. Last year was such a tough year for him due to injuries that he didn't even attempt any road races this spring. He's been working so hard and it was so frustrating to see him struggle but this weekend he PR'd in ALL 3 of his races!!! I'm also proud of myself not only for running well but for not giving up in the half when I was down. I really attribute it to now being #bonkproof thanks to working with Coach Caleb and being part of #teamwickedbonkproof. Seriously, it has done wonders for my running this year. Running so well at the Philly Rock and Roll and now this weekend at Runner's World has really given me great confidence going into the Philly Marathon. I wasn't sure going into the fall season if it was realistic to think that I could make a 3:40 to BQ but now I feel it's really achievable for me (my coach thinks so too which is awesome, read HERE). This just has me filled with crazy anticipation now but it's good. I even told Caleb to "bring it on" the next few weeks leading up to the marathon. So this weekend will be a tough 19 miler filled with assertive effort for the first minute of each mile and then a fast finish of 3 miles at marathon pace. I just feel so ready to tackle this thing now but I need to remain focused, injury free and train hard for a few more weeks. AHHHHHHH!!!! ;-)

Here's a few of my fave race photos for your viewing pleasure.  Don't mind the bubbles as I will NOT pay the ridiculous amount they are asking for these ;-)





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